The rolling hills, the crisp, cool air and the spice scented plantations; all of these can easily trigger a sense of awe at what is popular as Thekkady in Kerala. Periyar Tiger Reserve teeming with wildlife and great scenic charm awaits you at Thekkady high in the Western Ghats. Home to many endangered flora and fauna here at this sanctuary you can catch a glimpse of wildlife in a close range while enjoying a boat safari in the artificial lake. The artificial lake with its remnants of giant trees submerged partially in the backdrop of verdant green evokes an aura of a dream world.
Besides the majestic tigers, the region is well-known for the herds of elephants seen around the peripheries of the lake, a perennial portrait of Thekkady. The mountains around the lake covered with dense deciduous forests and grassy savannas make this a picture-perfect destination. Famed as the ‘lifeline of Kerala’ the river Periyar, the longest and one of the few perennial rivers in Kerala originates in the reserve’s remote forests.
Come to the villages located in the low lying hills of the Western Ghats beside the Periyar forests. Spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that have many wonders in store for you besides the opportunities for adventure tourism such as trekking, bamboo rafting, border hiking, rock climbing and a rich tribal culture. Here, the pleasant joys of the people co-inhabit the best of nature. Pepper lines with their dangling bunches of green peppercorns or the tiny flowers of cardamom or the lip smacking honey from the beehives in the cardamom plantations, add to the Thekkady experience.
The village life tour package organized by Kerala Tourism commences at the house of Rajeev at Amaravathy in Kumaly. Here, you can observe how raw pappadam, a crispy snack on Indian tables, is prepared. Rajeevan Chettan (Chettan means elder man) will introduce you to the process of its making from black gram flour.
En route Kumali (Kumily) from Munnar is the Valiyapara view-point, which is also marked by a nearby thick growth of bamboo. From this vantage you can see the lower camp, Cuddalore and the power station, visible through the thin layer of mist. Make sure that you reach here after early morning and before dusk or else the thick fog will bar your view.
The hot and spicy pepper pickle of Josettan and Sherly chechi (chechi means elder woman) can tingle your taste buds. Though named Venus Coffee Works, the shop is famous for the Pepper and Nutmeg pickles. Tread the muddy way in the cardamom plantation of Rarichan. There Rarichan will give you honey, taken from the beehives set in the Cardamom plantation that can melt in your mouth. The beehives nested in the wooden pillars fixed alongside the plantation have more than enough honey and can leave you wanting for more. Beware of the envious black ants, which cling on tightly savouring the honey; because they don’t let you get the honey that easily.
In the mean time, Mercy chechi will be ready with the delicious Kerala meals prepared from the fresh vegetables plucked from the farm. Usually tourists reach here for lunch with the pappadams from Rajeevan Chettan and the pickle from Sherly chechi.
A leisurely stroll through the serene cardamom plantations, caressing the little cardamom plants and finding out the different varieties of it is really a soothing experience. On the way back a visit to the cardamom dryer unit is recommended for the enthusiasts. The Ottakathalamedu view-point unveils the undulating hills of different configurations. The country church with its Cross kissing the sky at the top of one of the hills is a sight to behold.
You can feel the rhythm and richness of the tribal culture by watching the plays and songs in the traditional Paliyakoothu performance at the Vanashree Auditorium in Thekkady. The dancers with their brisk moves, resplendent make-up, feathery headgear and special attire can leave you spellbound. This marks the end of the Thekkady village life experience tour. By this time the spice scented air would have invaded every corner of your heart rejuvenating your spirit.
Nearest railway station: Kottayam, via Kollam –Theni Hwy about 107 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, via Aluva –Munnar Rd, about 146 km
K. Roopesh Kumar
State RT Field Coordinator
Ph. 094469 21702, 08111 05554